Service Improvement Initiative Learning Event

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Notes for an Address by

Mel Cappe
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet

Ottawa, Ontario
March 8, 2001

Check Against Delivery


  • It's truly a pleasure to come and speak to you this morning because, as Ralph Heintzman, Assistant Secretary, Service and Innovation Sector Service and Innovation Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat, was saying, improved service delivery is one of my priorities, as I was saying in the annual report of the Clerk to the Prime Minister last year. And so, I want to talk to you in terms of service improvement and the Service Improvement Initiative, and I want to leave you with two messages.
  • The first is that service improvement is everyone's responsibility, and the second is that we need to do it, we need to improve our service in a fashion that is both creative and innovative, and I'll come back to those two themes throughout.
  • I'm very happy to see so many of you here this morning, to see you improving services to Canadians and to see that you want to know more about the initiative that's been set up for that purpose.
  • Modernizing service delivery continues to be one of my priorities - you saw it last year in my Annual Report and you will see it again this year.
  • The Government of Canada is the largest supplier of information and services in this country. We supply a number of services to our clients; for example:
  • consumers concerned about product safety;
  • learners searching for educational opportunities;
  • vacationers looking for information on parks and cultural events;
  • entrepreneurs exploring market opportunities;
  • volunteers looking to build community organizations, and
  • citizens of the world keen to learn about Canada's contribution on the international stage.
  • My message to you today is that, to be effective all public servants have a role to play in improving service.
  • Those who deliver the services and interact with Canadians on a daily basis have the greatest impact on improving citizen satisfaction - they are the face of government.
  • Central Agencies and Headquarters need to foster an environment that will support front-line managers and employees and encourage innovative and creative ideas for improving service delivery.
  • We need to listen and consult with Canadians and with front-line employees to understand their needs and their expectations, what works, what does not work.
  • This is to say, that we are collectively responsible for modernizing and improving service delivery. We are all accountable to ministers and, through them, to Parliament and, through them, to Canadians.
  • We all need to work collaboratively to ensure that we create a public service that is distinguished by excellence and equipped with the skills for a knowledge economy and society. This is the kind of focus that we will need in the Service Improvement Initiative to improve the quality of service to Canadians.

Today and Beyond

  • Over the last year, Departments and central agencies have worked ceaselessly to improve services to Canadians.
  • Many of you have worked to lay the groundwork for the changes that citizens are looking for.
  • We have reached the objectives that we had set for the first year, after making the commitment to provide all government services on-line by 2004.
  • I am very pleased to add that the research upon which the citizen-centered service strategy is based, was awarded the Commonwealth Association of Public Administration and Management's (CAPAM) silver medal in Service to the Public at their recent conference in south Africa.
  • I congratulate all the civil servants who took part in that research for their work and their dedication.
  • As you can see we are moving forward. We are making progress, but we need to do better, particularly in the areas of innovation and reliability.
  • In a recent survey "Listening to Canadians," which was conducted this winter, 2001, Canadians were asked to rate service delivery in four aspects, and the results were
  • 51% indicated the service was respectful;
  • 49% indicated the service was accessible;
  • 39% indicated the service was reliable;
  • but only, 29% indicated the service was innovative.
  • You may ask, well, why would we care whether Canadians thought our service was innovative or not. And the fact is that Canadians are measuring us against everyone else who provides services.
  • The challenge for us is to do better than those other service providers, but the public is looking at us and saying, "There are other people who are more innovative in the way they are providing service."
  • It is important to note that the Federal Government received better ratings than the provincial governments in the first three aspects - but not innovation.

Changing Demands

  • Citizens are demanding faster, better, more dynamic and customized service from government, putting a premium on service innovation and results.
  • They are increasingly asking to be engaged in the development and delivery of policies and programs.
  • We need to focus on results not just process; and encourage innovation and creativity - this must be balanced with sound financial management.
  • We need to provide citizens with different ways to reach the government - in person, by mail, over the telephone, and especially through the Internet.
  • Technology is:
  • making it easier to exchange information;
  • helping to create and better disseminate new knowledge; and
  • enabling society to be more effective.

Challenges ahead

  • Technology provides new service delivery opportunities, but we must remember the very foundations of a proud Public Service heritage - that is, we will continue to: 
  • emphasize our strong and unwavering commitment to public service values - Innovation doesn't mean abandoning the traditions, but rather building on them. The four categories of public service values are:
  • democratic values - recognition of the role of Parliament;
  • professional values - trying to do as good a job as possible;
  • ethical values - honestly and integrity and a higher standard than the private sector; and,
  • people values - recognizing the importance of our staff in serving Canadians.
  • be a non-partisan and bilingual national in scope and international in outlook; and
  • serve Canadians with professionalism, integrity and excellence.
  • There are challenges for modernizing service delivery in a knowledge-based economy.
  • One is to find innovative ways to better serve Canadians who have multiple needs, infrequent contact with government and do not have easy access to electronic services.
  • Another is to improve the delivery of services in both official languages - we must unite our efforts in order to ensure that all Canadians are able to communicate easily with the Canadian government in the official language of their choice. It is not only desirable, it's the law.
  • Results for Canadians addresses two basic needs that Canadians have identified as priorities for government.
  • The first is easier and faster access to government services.
  • The second is higher level of quality and performance in service delivery by government.
  • In order to meet citizens' expectations and needs, over the coming year, we need to:
  • continue to put "Government on-line" - this will lead to a larger transformation to E-Government which goes beyond digitizing service delivery;
  • better integrate service delivery channels, between electronic and non-electronic means, to improve access, quality, efficiency and citizen satisfaction, as well as, delivery of service in both official languages;
  • ensure that the programs and services being offered are sufficiently developed and will have a positive impact, and objectives are well-defined so we can measure the results;
  • ensure we have the tools, learning and infrastructures to foster innovation and creativity - with limited resources at our disposal we need to encourage people to try new approaches, to get more results for the investment made; and
  • place greater value on innovation, while at the same time letting front-line staff in departments have a bigger say in day to day operations.


  • Today, you will receive information from people that are well placed to know what is happening in departments and agencies.
  • These Assistant Deputy Ministers were involved in the Service Improvement Policy Framework, and are now leading its implementation.
  • I encourage you to:
  • learn new ways to listen to your clients; and
  • share ideas to assist government in meeting our goals to improve citizen satisfaction.
  • The challenge is to recognize and embrace this new environment of innovation and creativity and to work as a community not as a collection of individual departments or branches.
  • We must support those public servants on the front-line and ensure they are equipped with the tools, the learning and infrastructure to work effectively and efficiently - they are the face of government.
  • Looking around this room I am confident that, you are up to the job.
  • Thank you.